The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked for government permission to quiz a former joint secretary in the steel ministry for recommending a coal block to Delhi-based Pushp Steel and Mining Limited as the agency is convinced the firm did not qualify to bid for the mine.
The person in question,a 1984 batch IAS officer Kumar Arvind Singh Deo,is now principal secretary PWD in Uttar Pradesh government. The agency has already questioned former coal secretary HC Gupta and had also examined two former PMO officers Vini Mahajan,IAS and Ashish Gupta,IPS recently in connection with the coal block allocations that ran from 2006 to 2009.
The investigating agency has,so far,registered 13 FIRs on the allotment of 54 blocks in this period. In an FIR filed last week,CBI named as accused Congress MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal,former minister of state for coal Dasari Narayana Rao and several officials of the screening committee which had sanctioned the coal blocks for allotment.
Deo was a member of the screening committee which recommended the Brahmapuri coal block to Pushp Steel in July 2007 for its proposed sponge iron plant at Durg.
CBI is of the view that the steel ministry walked extra miles to recommend the Brahampuri block to the company and is accordingly preparing to question the then officials associated with the process, the source said.
The firm is owned by Atul Jain and Sanjay Jain. In the last week of April,CBI had registered a case against the company for alleged misrepresentation of facts while applying for coal blocks and carried out searches at 11 locations across the country including Raipur,Chhattisgarh,Narwana in Haryana and Ajmeri Gate and Punjabi Bagh localities in the national capital.
Steel ministry officials refused to comment on the CBI request. An informed source told The Indian Express that the agency has specifically asked for the details pertaining to the block,the guidelines for making recommendations and the criteria adopted for qualifying a steel company for any block.
The allocation of this coal block was done on the basis of alleged false information that it had an iron ore mining lease while it had none. It was further alleged that the company did not have any experience in steel manufacturing and the networth of the group was around Rs.3.01 crore (approx),which was insignificant, the agency has said in its report.